This is the city, which derives its name from the fact that Lord Rama created a linga here to offer his prayers. The magnificent temple housing the linga looms before you, as you take the customary dip in the Agniteertham. Step around the massive Nandi Bull, whose size seems to be just perfect considering the dimensions of the temple. And of course, you mustn't miss out on the ritual bath at the 22 temple tanks within the complex. Rameshwaram is also said to be the link to Sri Lanka, and the boulders in the sea to Sri Lanka were believed to have been used by hanuman to cross over. The sea is clear and calm and village-like set-ups define the coast. You can visit Rameshwaram in a day, but once here, you must visit the sacred Dhanishkodi and the holy Kothandaramaswamy Temple there. That is possibly the only chance to discover what feats devotion attains.
Hop onto an auto-rickshaw or take the state-run buses to get around. Taxis, cycle-rickshaws and tongas are also convenient modes of transportation.
Ramanathaswamy Temple: One of the most famous Shiva Temples, this temple is notably the most visible structure here. Constructed in Dravidian-style, the temple is known for its long corridors, which are elaborately carved and styled. A total of 1212 intricately carved pillars can be seen here. There is a huge statue of the Nandi Bull and the sanctum is guarded by dwarpals. Within the main sanctum is the lingam created by Sita and on the right is the Vishwa-lingam, brought by Hanuman and which is worshipped first everyday. The consort to Lord Shiva as Ramanathaswamy is Goddess Parvatavardhini, and her shrine is located left on the main sanctum. The shrine to Vishalakshi, consort of Vishwa-lingam, is also located here. Other interesting structures here are the shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Sethu Madhava and the shrine dedicated to Nataraja.
Prior to entering the main temple, pilgrims are required to take a dip at the holy Agniteertham, where Lord Rama is also said to have taken a bath. There are several helpers here who assist you in this ritual, as well as that of visiting the 21 other teerthams (tanks). Remember to carry a change of clothes, since you cannot enter the temple is damp clothes.
Open from: 4.00 am-1.00 pm, 3.30 pm-9.00 pm
Gandhamadana Parvatam: This 2-storey temple houses the marble imprints of Lord Rama's foot. It is believed that Hanuman first leaped from here while en route to Lanka. The top storey offers stunning views of the sea.
Open from: 7.00 am-1.00 pm, 3.00 pm-6.00 pm
Kothandaraswamy Temple: Located almost 12 kms from the city centre, this temple is dedicated to Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. It is believed that Ravana's brother, Vibhishana surrendered to Lord Rama at this spot. Some images of the gods can still be found here, though the idol of Hanuman is the only remaining structure.
Dhanushkodi: Deriving its name from Lord Rama's bow, this is the Land End. Shaped like a conch, the chain of small islets and reefs in the sea between Sri Lanka and Dhanushkodi are collectively known as Adam's Bridge. It is believed that Lord Hanuman and his army laid boulders and used them to reach across to Sri Lanka. Dhanushkodi was completely destroyed by the cyclones of 1964 but the Kothandaramaswamy Temple remained intact.
Erwadi: Located almost 24 kms from Rameshwaram, Erwadi is an important Muslim pilgrim spot famous for the tomb of Ibrahim Sahid Auliya. Muslims from across the globe visit Erwadi, especially during December to participate in the annual festival held to pay tribute to this saint.
Uthirakosamangai: This site is famous for its Shiva temple, the deity of which is carved in emerald. Also worshipped here is Goddess Mangalesvari. The annual Arudhra Festival in December attracts a large number of tourists.
Authentic Tamil cuisine is easily available here, so head out to the eateries for the yummiest full-course meals. Distinguished by its spicy flavour, rice is the major food served with accompaniments of sambar, dry curry, rasam, kootu and thayir (curd) or moru (buttermilk). Lighter meals of pongal, dosai, chapati, idli or vadai are also available. Head out to West Car Street for good South Indian thalis. Hotel Guru on East Car Street is one of the best places to try out these thalis. TTDC Hotel has an in-house restaurant that serves a good variety of veg and non-veg food. Located near the temple, Hotel Aishwarya serves idli-dosa, puris and vadais. They also offer quiet a range of fresh fruit huices and milkshakes. A popular mess-like area is close to the Sringeri Mutt, which is known for their fresh piping hot tiffins, dosais, uthappams and bajjis served on banana leaves. Narasu's Coffee Outlet is known not only for the best filter coffee, but also for its three-course rice meals cooked sans onion and garlic. Rameshwaram's proximity to the sea makes it a good place to have seafood and fresh fish. While the food at Gujarat Bhavan is spicy, its besan laddoos are must-haves.
The sea makes it a great spot to pick up some seashell items, available best around the Sannidhi Street. Take your pick from wall-hangings, mirrors, lamps, pen-stands, ashtrays and jewellery, available at the Kalam Sea Shell Mart. Articles made from palm leaf and beads are also popular and make excellent bargains. There are several shops near the temples, where you can find different items made from local produce. Head out to Kadicraft from where you can pick up a number of handicraft items. And don't forget to pick up the ever-popular silk saris of Rameshwaram, created with exquisite boreders and gold works.
Celebrated in January, Thai Amavasi is held to offer prayers for ones forefathers. Celebrated extensively at the Ramanathaswamy Temple, thousands of devotees take a dip at Rameshwaram and head to Agniteertha Kadarkarai to offer prayers. A procession carrying the idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lord Shiva are also carried to Agniteertha and prayed to. Held in the darkest fortnight of September, Mahalaya Amavasya is also held to offer food to the departed. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Maha Shivratri is undoubtedly one of the most important festivals held here. Held with great pomp at the Ramanathaswamy Temple, it is attended by devotees from all across the state who come here to worship the Lord. Also held in this temple is Thirukalyanam, which celebrated the marriage of Sri Ramanathaswamy and Parvathavardhini Ambal.
There are a few hotels, lodges and guesthouses, where you could try and get a room. Most pilgrims opt for the dormitory service at the temples. Hotel Venkatesh and Hotel Maharaja are good budget hotels that offer modern amenities. Devasthanam Cottages are good guest houses that offer a comfortable stay. The accommodation options in most hotels and guesthouses provide tourists and pilgrims with all necessary amenities and facilities required.
Popular legend attributes the installation of the Linga at Ramanathaswamy Temple to Lord Rama. It is said that while returning from Lanka, Lord Rama directed Hanuman to bring an image of Vishwanathar from Benaras. Since Hanuman was delayed in bringing the Linga, Sita created one of sand and Rama offered worship to it. This Linga is referred to as Ramalingam and hence the name of the town came to be Rameshwaram. Menwhile, when Hanuman returned, he was upset to see that Rama had already created and worshipped a different linga. To pacify him, Lord Rama directed his Vishwa Linga to be installed and worshipped before the Ramalinga. Since then prayers are offered first to Vishwanathar before proceeding to Ramanathaswamy.